Born May 9, 1945 (age 68)
Now in his third spell in charge of Bayern, Heynckes is due to retire at the end of this season. A former sharpshooting winger or centre-forward with Borussia Monchengladbach, Hanover and West Germany (39 caps), he has been a coach since 1978, holding the reins at Gladbach, Bayern, Athletic Bilbao, Eintracht Frankfurt, Tenerife, Real Madrid, Benfica, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen.
His managerial highlights? The Champions League with Real Madrid in 1997-98, although he was sacked days later after finishing below Barcelona in La Liga, and two Bundesliga titles during his first spell at Bayern (1988-89 and 1989-90). Made a brief return to Bayern in April 2009 to replace the sacked Jurgen Klinsmann. After two years at Leverkusen, he was back at Bayern in 2011 to oversee the passage to last season’s Champions League Final.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
“The great thing about the current Bayern squad is that I can make three, four or five changes to the starting line-up without standards suffering. There’s a harmony in our ranks”
“I have authority in my job. But it comes not from the position but from myself as a person”
We had the impression that the relationship between the team and Jupp had broken down,” explained Schalke general manager Rudi Assauer in 2004 following the sacking of Jupp Heynckes. “He wanted to do things his way and could not be convinced to change. He is a football man of the old school. Unfortunately we’re in 2004.”
Nine years after famously being catalogued as a dinosaur by Assauer, Bayern Munich coach Heynckes is doing a fine job of burying that Jurassic Park theory. He has underlined his continuing relevance with his side’s domination of this season’s Bundesliga, and their mightily impressive qualification for the Finals of both the Champions League and the German Cup.
A prehistoric relic for archaeologists to enthuse over and put in a display case? Not the 68-year-old competitor and winner that is Heynckes, a man who this year clocked up his 1,000th Bundesliga game as player and coach, and is currently in his third spell at the Bayern helm.
Any analysis of Bayern’s domestic dominance this term should reveal all manner of building blocks. There is the amazing quality and strength in depth of their squad; the season-long brilliance in midfield and attack of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller; the huge contribution of the newly arrived triumvirate of Brazilian centre-back Dante, Spanish defensive midfielder Javi Martinez and Croat striker Mario Mandzukic; the backs-against-the-wall feeling generated by two seasons without a Bundesliga crown; and the broad strokes of professionalism and relentless ambition provided by new director of sport, Matthias Sammer. But of all the contributing factors, none have proved as vital as Heynckes’ capacity to regenerate and rethink.
After 24 humiliating months playing second fiddle to Borussia Dortmund’s young upstarts, and the home-turf heartbreak of losing the 2012 Champions League Final to Chelsea, morale at Bayern – not to mention their default aura of supremacy – was
in pieces. However, Heynckes is nothing if not a fighter, and he was so keen to lead the counter-charge that he refused to take a summer holiday, opting instead to draw up new battle plans.
For this season, Bayern have not only been fitter and more powerful but, crucially, they are much quicker in their transition play, able to switch from defence into attack in a blink of the eye, and just as slick when falling back to protect their own lines. In no time at all, Bayern’s pressing game has gone from adequate to sensational – and it says much for Heynckes’ powers of persuasion that the normally attack-only likes of Ribery and Arjen Robben now happily do their share of man-in-possession harassment.
Once too wedded to the naughty-step routine for his own good – his uber-disciplinary ways notoriously leading to a strike by Eintracht Frankfurt players Tony Yeboah, Jay-Jay Okocha and Maurizio Gaudino back in 1994 – today’s Heynckes is a far shrewder figure. A clever mix of authority wrapped in a smiling face of warmth and heart, the bottom line remains “what I say goes”.
An individual who used to struggle in vain to maintain temperamental equilibrium, Heynckes tends to be far more mellow these days and is considerably more effective for it.
Rather than get mad, he now prefers to stay level-headed and rational; age has most certainly brought him wisdom.
And experience – in particular Real Madrid’s decision to fire him just a week after he had delivered them victory in the 1998 Champions League Final – has also made him more philosophical.
With so many big names and egos in the Bayern squad, even the most finely calculated rotation system cannot keep everyone happy and over the course of the season many players – particularly Robben, front man Mario Gomez and Swiss attacking midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri – have had cause to lament their lack of playing time. Yet thanks to the respect the players have for Heynckes, and the spirit of unity and purpose he has transmitted to the group, dressing-room dissent has been kept to a minimum. That in itself is an amazingly harmonious state of affairs for the team known as “FC Hollywood”.
Former club captain and goalkeeper Oliver Kahn believes he has never seen a more determined and resolute Bayern. And that, in short, is the handiwork of Heynckes, the perfectionist coach who in the wake of last year’s meltdown – the Champions League showpiece disaster and a 5-2 drubbing by Dortmund in the German Cup Final – vowed to himself to pay even more attention to the smallest of details. Look no further for the seeds of the Bayern renaissance.
Of the three German championships Heynckes has won as a coach – all with Bayern, in 1989, 1990 and this season – the man himself insists that the first was the most satisfying. But one day soon he might just change his mind. After all, only once in a blue moon does a team so comprehensively rule the roost as Bayern have done in Germany these past few months. They are bewildering in their self-belief, consistency and ability to find ways to win.
Wrapping up the 2013 league title with a 1-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt six weeks before the end of the season, Bayern were the earliest-ever recipients of the Bundesliga silver platter. They also rewrote a raft of other single-season top-flight records, among them the longest winning sequence in a season (14), the best start (eight wins), the most away wins (14 by early May), the longest spell without conceding a goal at the start of a season (495 minutes) and the biggest goal-difference (+76, with three games to go), not to mention the most points and the most wins.
Now the oldest coach ever to win the Bundesliga, Heynckes seems to have left the best to last. In almost three-and-a-half decades in a variety of top-level dug-outs he has never assembled a more complete and ruthless side than the current Bayern all-stars.
With the triple very much on the cards, the ultimate irony is that Heynckes will be replaced at the Allianz Arena next term by iconic ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola.
Although Heynckes did hint last summer that this season would be his last on the Bayern bridge, he would have required little arm-twisting to stay and deep down he was wounded when the club powerbrokers announced the January bombshell that Guardiola had been recruited.
A close friend of Bayern president Uli Hoeness, Heynckes was clearly unhappy with the fait accompli presented to him.
But, true to his professional instincts, he refused to go public with his grievances, simply putting his head down and carrying on with his excellent work.
Often a coach with a limited shelf life becomes a lame duck – but not Heynckes at Bayern. His players will run through walls for him – and now they know the farewell tour is on, they have been redoubling their efforts.
The secret of Bayern’s success? The desire for the perfect send-off.
By Nick Bidwell